Chautauqua all class in Manikato

Chautauqua confirmed his standing as the best sprinter in Australia with a breathtaking victory in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes on Friday night.

Despite sitting last as they went around the turn, jockey Tommy Berry didn’t panic, picking through a gap and letting the horse unleash his devastating finishing burst to claim the $1 million Moonee Valley sprint.

The Team Hawkes-trained Chautauqua, the $2.45 favourite, was a class above, storming away to beat Srikandi ($9) by two lengths, while Rebel Dane ($13) was in third.

The popular Buffering ($7.50) led early but copped pressure throughout and battled on to finish fifth, while Terravista ($6) was stuck in traffic and never saw daylight, coming seventh.

But there was no doubt about the winner, who was just too good.

“It was a super effort,” co-trainer Wayne Hawkes said.

“He was certainly made to earn it but that is what it is all about when you’re the ‘hot pot’, and at the 700 (metre-mark) the quaddie punters probably felt like they were in a bit of strife but when they came to the corner he just pushed out and went away.

“He’ll go to Flemington (next for the Darley Classic), then we’ll see how he pulls up. We’re taking it one race at a time. Then, you never know, we might go and meet the Queen (at Royal Ascot).

“He’s the best sprinter I’ve ever touched, that’s for sure.”

It was Berry’s first Group 1 winner in Victoria and he celebrated by saluting to the stars in memory of his fallen twin Nathan, who passed away from a rare illness last year.

The star Sydney hoop revealed he got in touch with Chautauqua’s regular jockey Dwayne Dunn for some hints on how to ride the grey.

“It’s unbelievable – my first Group 1 in Melbourne, the only place I hadn’t got one,” Berry said.

“I gave Dwayne a call before I got on the flight today and he gave me more information than I needed to know, and he told me about the horse inside-out.

“I’ve obviously ridden him before but never in Melbourne. Thank you, Dwayne, I appreciate it so much.”

Berry was initially concerned about his position, but stuck to his instructions.

“I didn’t expect to be that far back but John said on the way out ‘I don’t want you on the fence, and if you are just ride patient’,” he said.

“John has been trying to hammer into my head that if something goes wrong, follow into the race and I got out at the right time. I can’t thank the Hawkes team enough.

“I’ve been riding a lot for them in the last twelve months and I’m sure there are a lot of other jockeys who deserved (the ride) too.”


Almoonqith handed Emirates Melbourne Cup penalty

Racing Victoria (RV) Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter, has announced that Almoonqith has been re-handicapped to 53kg in the $6.2 million Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on 3 November.

The weight includes a 1kg penalty issued today to the David Hayes and Tom Dabernig-trained six-year-old import for his win in yesterday’s Group 3 William Hill Geelong Cup (2400m).

“Almoonqith made a winning move coming to the home turn in the Geelong Cup and was a dominant winner over Dandino with a decisive margin back to Manndawi in third place,” Carpenter said.

“In the Geelong Cup, Almoonqith had 2kg less than Dandino who has 52.5kg in the Melbourne Cup and the 1kg penalty now takes Almoonqith to 53kg, representing a 2.5kg turnaround between Almoonqith and Dandino from yesterday’s race.”

Almoonqith, who will aim to become the second son of Dynaformer to complete the Geelong Cup-Melbourne Cup double after Americain in 2010, rises from 37th in the Emirates Melbourne Cup Order of Entry to 28th position.

Dunaden (2011) and Media Puzzle (2002) are the other Internationally-trained horses to have complete the double. On a Jeune (2005) and Bauer (2008) finished second in the Melbourne Cup after winning the Geelong Cup.

Dandino passed the first ballot clause finishing second and has elevated himself from 62nd in the order to 37th.

Meanwhile, RV Stewards were today informed that The Bart Cummings winner Let’s Make Adeal will not take her place in the Emirates Melbourne Cup.

Second declarations for the Melbourne Cup will be taken at 10am Monday, 26 October.

Mongolian Khan is Caulfield Cup King

New Zealander Mongolian Khan defied a favourites’ curse to stamp himself as a genuine superstar of the turf with a commanding victory in the BMW Caulfield Cup on Saturday.

All the form suggested Murray Baker’s champion was the one to beat, and punters certainly agreed, but it had been 10 years since a horse as short as $5 had won the $3 million feature.

A perfect ride from fellow Kiwi Opie Bosson gave Mongolian Khan every chance and he challenged his rivals to beat him.

Bosson settled Mongolian Khan in seventh spot as surprise leader Set Square set a solid tempo.

The hoop eased out down the side and put himself into the race, hitting the front on the turn and daring the others to catch him.

They couldn’t.

While Trip To Paris (who reeled off the fastest last 600m of the race) and Our Ivanhowe declared themselves genuine Emirates Melbourne Cup hopes by filling the placings, Mongolian Khan had done enough to secure the prize.

Baker knew the horse, already a dual Group 1 winner, was capable of winning a race like this and was thrilled it panned out as he’d hoped.

“You’re never confident coming into a race like this, but he was as well as we could have him,” Baker said.

“He’d done everything right, he’d had no setbacks, we’ve done the mileage.

“He rode him perfectly Opie, the plan was to go early and make it a stayers’ race in the straight.

“We thought if we could get to the front, nothing would get past him.

“It’s one I’ve always wanted to win – it’s the strongest 2400m handicap in Australasia – a great race.

“It’s just a privilege to be here.”

The performance delivered Bosson the best win of his career.

“I just can’t believe we actually won,” an elated Bosson said afterwards.

“He’s taken me to my biggest heights in racing and this is by far my biggest thrill in racing.

“He just loves staying – look out in the Melbourne Cup.”

In an ominous warning to his rivals, the NZ-based Baker, who recorded his 16th Group 1 win in Australia, thinks he’ll be even better come the first Tuesday in November.

“We think he’s probably more of a Melbourne Cup horse, but (it’s) whether they can run that extra 800m,” he said.

“I think he can get it.”

John Sargent’s Gust Of Wind finished fourth, while Snow Sky battled on well for fifth, just ahead of Japanese star Fame Game.


Vashka breaks Godolphin drought

Leading trainer John O’Shea thinks Vashka could measure up and become a serious weight-for-age horse next campaign after his strong victory in the Moonga Stakes.

It had been a frustrating day for Godolphin up to that point with a string of placings, but Vashka made a welcome return to the winners’ stall.

Vashka made his own luck as jockey James McDonald went to the front, leaving the others in his wake.

While the well-backed favourite Under The Louvre ($2.40) made a heap of ground late, the bird had already flown as Vashka ($8) pinched a break. Coronation Shallan, a $51 outsider, finished third.

O’Shea was relieved to nab a winner.

“I feel like Johnathan Thurston hitting the crossbar all day,” O’Shea said.

“The horse has been in great form and (McDonald) took the race by the scruff of the neck.

“I’ve been desperate to get him here to Caulfield over (1400m) and hoped he’d run like that and it’s rewarding for the team to see him do it.”

The trainer says Vashka will now go to the paddock and be set for races like the Group 1 Futurity Stakes next year.

“He’s done a great job this prep,” O’Shea said.

“We’ll give him a break now and get him back early in the year and might have a crack at those weight-for-age races when the others aren’t as ready.”


Protest can’t split Caulfield Sprint pair

A failed protest only heightened the drama as Eclair Choice and Lumosty dead-heated in the Group 2 Caulfield Sprint.

Astonishingly, it’s the second year in a row there’s been a dead-heat in the race as Bel Sprinter and Miracles Of Life did the same thing in the 2014 renewal.

The Phillip Stokes-trained Eclair Choice peeled out on the turn and ran down the early leader Ball Of Muscle while Lumosty was battling with Kuro for clear running.

Once Robert Smerdon’s smart sprinting mare found the gap, she stormed down the outside – hitting the line at exactly the same time as Eclair Choice.

The judge couldn’t separate them, but Lumosty’s jockey Dwayne Dunn had a crack in the stewards’ room, firing in a protest alleging interference on the home turn.

While Dom Tourneur admitted Eclair Choice didn’t handle the turn very well, he stated his horse had nothing to do with Lumosty’s interference and the stewards agreed, dismissing the objection.

The Adelaide-based Stokes was shocked Eclair Choice went around at $26, but was thrilled to get the result.

“We’ll take a dead-heat,” Stokes said.

“We took the blinkers off and it seemed to do the job today.

“Dom’s been itching at the bit to get back over (to Melbourne), so he’s here and he’s done a good job.”

Smerdon thought the interference played a key role in the result, but was happy enough to share the race.

“(Dwayne) was in a bit of a bumping duel there for a while and I thought it cost him the race,” Smerdon said.

“If he gets out when he want to get out, I think she would’ve won outright, but still, we’re not complaining.”